The Holes of Aphar (עָפָר)

In the Wisdom Book of Job there is a verse in chapter 30 which says, “they made their homes in the sides of ravines, in holes in the earth or in the clefts of rock” New Jerusalem Bible

In the Orthodox Jewish Bible it says, “To dwell in the clefts of the wadis, in holes of aphar, and in the rocks…”

In this case aphar refers to the earth.  Many of us have made that descent into the holes of the earth to explore.

Holes and caves hold mysteries.  Many archaeological finds have been made by squirming searchers who risk body and limb to uncover the history of the past.

For those of us who just find holes and caves of the earth fascinating they do proffer the writher a new world without the surface intrusions.  To crawl through mud and water in narrow passages and to enter an earth vault with stalactites and stalagmites is an experience, especially if there are no traces of human entry before you entered the treasure vault of aphar.

Another use of holes in a number of societies on this planet traversing the cosmos is to use them as final resting places for those who have ended their journey on their road of life.  Cemeteries are reminders of the mortality of life.

In the mountain hamlet where I was born and grew up before I left for the university never to return, there are numerous cemeteries, especially family ones stretching back two centuries.  These men, women and children lived and built the communities which surround their resting places.  Many of them never owned a piece of land to call their own, except for their hole of aphar.

In ancient cities you have the necropolises, the catacombs, crypts, mausoleums and sepulchres which house the ancient denizens.  In old churchyards you have the faithful believers.  In the potters’ fields rest those who had no means to inscribe their name on stone or metal, becoming an unmarked grave of one whom no one remembers.

As one visits cemeteries many graves have tokens or pictures of those who lie beneath the soil.  Many have flowers or plants which someone has taken the time to place and to care for through the seasons of the year.

Many people visit their loved ones’ or friends’ graves daily.  They stand there and ponder and wonder and may shed a tear.  For we all know that one day our time will be finis and our journey over.

What we leave behind besides those who loved us, admired us and sometimes despised and hated us is a legacy which we are unaware of as the days and months coalesce into years and decades.  What happens on the surface of the earth is no longer our affair.

When I visit a cemetery, I pause by graves of those that I did not know, especially the young and veterans.  These fellow travellers and seekers have gone, but I wonder if their songs are now part of the repertoire of the cosmic ocean.

Or did their songs end with their last breath?  Is their hole of aphar their final reality?

I visited an old cemetery recently where a famous person is entombed in their mausoleum.  Their mausoleum is the most impressive structure in this cemetery.  He was a 19th century giant in human terms and his legacy still survives today with his name on the company which he founded.  It is reported that he had his casket encased in concrete and buried under the floor of his resting place.  His wife and other family members are buried inside.  He did not want to be disturbed, even by the Christian hope of the resurrection.

Behind his grand tomb is buried a former slave who became a famous personage of the 19th Century as well.  Her grave is simple with a stone and flag to mark the remarkable journey of one born into slavery who became an advocate for African-Americans’ and women’s rights.  She died with the hope that her hole of aphar would only be a temporary resting place.  She believed in a future resurrection.  No concrete or stone encases her coffin, just earth.

Regardless of what you may believe about the end of life, there are only two possible realities: the hole of aphar with never-ending dreamless sleep or a life connected to the cosmic ocean.  For what we are in this life, when we die, it ceases to exist on this third planet in the solar system of Sol in the Milky Way Galaxy of the cosmos.

G. D. Williams       © 2013

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